Our collective independence

Jun. 29, 2013 @ 03:18 PM

Independence is a strong word. This coming week, we’ll celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, the day patriots declared that we had just about enough of the British and were doing things on our own from now on, thank you. Except, you know, it wasn’t that nicey nice, as the Declaration of Independence was signed during a bloody war. 

It’s been so long since July 4, 1776, and the moral arc of the universe has bended so much since then. Independent as a country, yes we were, soon enough. Free as a people – well, white people anyway. And liberty? Not so much for women, whose livelihoods were not determined by themselves. But all that was then. This is now. Paul Revere’s ride was among the first gallops of U.S. history. So much ground has been covered since then. Change is a constant.
As an AARP driving instructor told me once (no, I wasn’t in the class, I was writing a story about it): “If you can’t run with the big dogs, don’t jump off the porch.” One way to take that, other than keeping up with traffic, is that if you’re getting off the porch, you’re going to have to venture outside into the world with everyone else. And they’re not going to be just like you. And you’re going to have to pick up the pace.
Sometimes when I’m driving to work, after the coffee has kicked in, I think about this community and state and country and its people and I think about how much I love it. Oh, there’s much to fret about and be angry about and want to change. But overall, we are so lucky to live in a place that, set in motion 237 years ago, is independent. One that strives for liberty and justice for all, even if it doesn’t succeed every single day.
Our American history is composed of big moments and small moments. Presidential elections, battles, triumphs, defeats all printed as six-column headlines in big letters on the front page of newspapers. But our American history is also in the details, in the conversations and events where daily life comes and goes. It’s in stories passed down in families -- written, oral or through a piece of furniture or even a clock or piece of silverware. All of that is part of the fabric of the United States of America. Each piece matters, because even small moments can alter the course of history. Independence is a strong word because it is a word that shows strength to stand on our own. But it is also the result of people working together. That’s when our great nation is at its best, when we collectively strive for the good of all. Happy Independence Day, America!
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.